Paris Kurdish
Members of Kurdish community stand next to a barricade on fire as they clash with police officers at the crime scene where a shooting took place in Paris, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Skirmishes erupted in the neighbourhood a few hours after the shooting, as members of the Kurdish community shouted slogans against the Turkish government, and police fired tear gas to disperse an increasingly agitated crowd. A shooting targeting a Kurdish cultural center in Paris Friday left three people dead and three others wounded. Image Credit: AP

  • Paris shooter identified as 'William M.'
  • His father told local media: "He's a taciturn person who doesn’t live like normal people do.”
  • William M was suspected of stabbing at least two migrants with a sword in a Paris camp last year.

Paris: A 69-year-old man who opened fire at a Kurdish cultural centre and a hairdressing salon in central Paris on Friday is a retired train driver with a history of racist violence and weapons offences, according to police and prosecutors.

Identified as “William M.” by French media, the gunman is suspected of stabbing at least two migrants with a sword in a Paris camp last year, police and judicial sources told AFP.

The man is believed to have slashed several tents in the migrant camp at the Bercy park in eastern Paris on December 8, 2021.

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In June 2016, he was convicted of armed violence by a court in the northeastern suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, which he appealed.

A year later, he was given a suspended six-month prison sentence for illegally possessing firearms, judicial sources told AFP.

Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said the question of whether Friday’s attack was motivated by racism “will obviously form part of our investigations”.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the man “was clearly targeting foreigners”, but that it was “not certain” he had aimed to kill “Kurds in particular”.

He was also a member of a shooting sports club “and has several registered weapons”, Darmanin said.

The assailant, reportedly born in Paris, has been taken to hospital for treatment for serious facial injuries after he was arrested at the scene.

Out on parole

Key questions for French authorities in the coming days include why the suspect was out on parole, with left-wing opponents already accusing President Emmanuel Macron’s government of failing to take far-right threats seriously enough.

“The far-right appears to have struck again. With deadly consequences,” senior hard-left MP Clementine Autain wrote on Twitter. “When will those at the head of the state start taking this terror threat seriously?”

Beccuau stressed, however, that “nothing enables us to establish at this stage that this man belongs to an ideologically extreme group.”

The suspect had been released from custody on December 12 pending trial over the migrant tent attack, and was prohibited from carrying a weapon or from leaving the country, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

‘Doesn’t live like normal people do’

The M6 TV channel said one of its reporters had interviewed his parents, who are 91 and 93 years old.

“He is crazy, he’s an idiot,” said his father, according to an audio recording posted online. “He is a taciturn person who doesn’t live like normal people do.”

M6 said neighbours described the suspect, who had been living with his parents since his release from prison earlier this month, as “strange”.

The 20 Minutes newspaper said he was born in March 1953 in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris, and had been living in the capital’s upmarket second arrondissement.

The paper also quoted an anonymous police officer as saying that the gunman had said “he didn’t like Kurds” during his arrest when he “also made incoherent remarks”.